Archive for Italy

Restorative

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 16, 2017 by cliffdean

 

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South of Otranto

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 27, 2017 by cliffdean

Cross country

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 18, 2017 by cliffdean

We’ve  been walking in Catalonia & Puglia. Back now in the rolling green of Sussex,where upcoming RXbirdwalks are as follows:

Saturday 20th: Brede High Woods
I’d hoped to organise a Nightingale walk one evening this coming week but Events have intervened. On Saturday, however, in daylight hours they might still be singing and if not there will be a chorus of many other woodland birds as well as beautiful fresh foliage.
(Evening walk for Nightingales)

This depends on weather conditions and,of course, Events. Another evening might work out better, so watch this space.

Saturday 27th: Dengemarsh

There should be good oportunities to see Hobbies, Marsh Harriers, probably Bittern as well as the great variety of waterbirds present around this part of the RSPB reserve. A chance too to see if you can still distinguish Sedge & Reed Warblers by song, pick out Whitethroats in song flight and track down Lesser Whitethroat.

 If you would like to join uson any of these walks please email me on rxbirdwalks1066@yahoo.com

A dark day in Downland

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 23, 2016 by cliffdean

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Via Cacciatori del Sile is on the one-way system not far from Treviso station. In the mid-70s it was, by day, an ordinary residential street but by night busy with cars cruising for rent-boys, many of whom were underpaid soldiers from the city’s barracks. Two girls from the Oxford School of English invited me for lunch at their flat there one day, having made an expedition to the Pescheria, armed with a useful book which would help them to both identify and prepare the seafood on sale there.

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It emphasises the cultural distance between then and now that I was only just encountering for the first time items such as radicchio & pesto or dishes now commonplace such as Spaghetti alla Carbonara & Tiramisu. I was all too aware of how reverently my Italian friends approached their food but this was the first English book I’d seen which dealt with the subject at the same level of seriousness. What’s more, it was written in a style at once elegant, unpretentious and informative.

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That lunch was the first occasion I’d eaten cape sante & cape lunghe but, more influentially, the first time I’d heard of Elizabeth David. The forceful ink cover illustration by Renato Guttoso looked a bit crude and old-fashioned but was so much part of the package that, when the book was re-issued a few years ago with a plain cover it just didn’t seem right.

Over the years since, I’ve returned to these yellowing pages for a few recipes or to dip into commentaries on certain themes. I like the modesty of its scale and personality compared with more recent celebrity offerings.

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It was only a few months ago that I learnt David was buried at Folkington, just yards from the woodland clearing where we’d parked for Downland walks and determined to pay my respects on the next occasion I passed that way. In the meantime, I discovered she’d had an interesting life so ordered the book by Artemis Cooper, whose biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor I’d previously enjoyed.

The walk, planned for the Solstice, was advanced by a day in view of a dire weather forecast for Wednesday and got off to a good start when I blithely misread the map & set off on a route which added a couple of miles to the expected itinerary. No matter – we skirted through Friston Forest down to Litlington and along the river up to Alfriston before heading off across the fields towards Wilmington, where we planned to eat. We visit that area with sufficient infrequency to render memorable historic walks with family & friends. Since the grey midwinter day had never really got light, a tasty lunch and extended conversation at The Giant’s Rest projected the latter part of our circuit into failing light as we followed hollow lanes incised by a million feet and hooves towards Folkington.

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Cooper’s fluent, conversational style makes for easy reading but my memory is so bad that by the time we arrived at sunset in the churchyard I struggled to recall the familial relationships of various Gwynnes commemorated on the slabs

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Elizabeth David’s freestanding headstone is distinctive however, for the lively and affectionate carving of those ingredients which typify her love of Mediterranean Food (her first book), surrounding a capacious marmite.

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More recent reading: everyone’s heard of Lawrence of Arabia but what about Gertrude Bell? Her life was so exotic, adventurous and influential, yet unfulfilled, that it would make a fantastic film. Then I discovered that Werner Herzog had just made it!! My misgivings when I saw that Bell is played by Nicole Kidman are borne out by some reviews, but it might be worth a watch.

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Via Francigena #2

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 20, 2016 by cliffdean

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Via Francigena #1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on May 2, 2016 by cliffdean

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Colonna sonora

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 26, 2016 by cliffdean

It was the truth when I wrote in a review of our B&B in Rome that we awoke to the sound of birds rather than traffic noise. I failed to specify, however, that the birds in question were Yellow-legged Gulls which went KOKOKOKOKOKOKyeeOOWW! from the rooftops at break of day.

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I had been impressed by the inclusion of these birds’ calls in the dawn rooftop scene of La Grande Bellezza because I had not understood their predominance in the city’s everyday soundtrack.

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The second species to fire up at dawn, subtle by comparison, was the similarly ubiquitous Hooded Crow, then some time later Great Tits and crooning Blackbirds.

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Though I heard none of the Robins which feature frequently in the film – their early-morning innocence serenading the homebound playboy – mellifluous Blackcap song backed up by chattering of Wrens issued from evergreen courtyards along with the throbbing of amorous Feral Rock Doves.

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As we waited for the tram, silvery Firecrest song and the sizzling of invisible Serins came down from Holm Oaks overhanging the busy street.

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In the pine-shaded parks they were joined by Short-toed Treecreepers & Greenfinches though it was the shrieking bands of dazzling green Ring-necked & Monk Parakeets that caught tourists’ attention.

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Black Redstarts quivered from broken columns and fallen arches while high above the waving selfie-sticks Kestrels cackled from the ancient brickwork.

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Considering the vast numbers of wild beasts slaughtered at the Colosseum, few of their bones have been recovered. Nor does there seem to be any evidence for the martyrdom of Christians there.

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Jeb, the film’s protagonist shows little interest in, but perhaps some appreciation of, the bird song (Song Thrush, Blackcap, Robin) that accompanies him, as fresh as the water he splashes from a wayside fountain.

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He fails to register Peregrines wickering from a crumbling aqueduct, no doubt distracted by the naked performance artist about to bash her head against it.

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 Nonetheless he scores a remarkable Roof-garden Tick when he discovers a flock of migrant Flamingos roosting on his city-centre balcony.

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